Taylor vs. Davies: Bad Blood in Glasgow
We are roughly two weeks away from an intriguing Commonwealth and WBC Silver title fight in the 140lb division. Braehead Arena in Glasgow will play host to Josh Taylor vs. Ohara Davies, a battle of two very good looking prospects from the UK on July 8.
Taylor (9-0-0, 8KOs) is from Edinburgh, Scotland. The fighter known as “The Tartan Tornado” has looked superb during his professional career thus far. He has worked hard in the gym and decided to do his talking in the ring. The upcoming scrap with Davies represents his hardest test to date.
Davies (15-0-0, 12KOs) hails from London, England. The self-assured boxer can certainly help promote a fight with his trash talk and social media outbursts but in truth this Scotland vs. England clash, titled “Bad Blood”, doesn't require any hype to sell it.
The two promotional companies, Cyclone Promotions and Matchroom Boxing, were able to reach an agreement (Cyclone will promote the event) and certainly the timing of this fight was a pleasant surprise for me. As is often the case in boxing I had presumed that if Taylor and Davies were ever going to meet it would have been much further down the line. The two boxers and their respective promotional teams deserve credit for getting this fight made now and giving us yet another matchup to get excited about this year.
After proceedings have concluded in Glasgow on July 8 someone will have lost their “0”. For the man who loses his unbeaten status all will not be lost. Both boxers will learn more by facing each other at this stage than they would by being involved in five or six more contests where they outclass their foe. I suspect this will be a high quality affair and come the end of it the reputations of both men will have been enhanced.
Time to look at the participants in more detail.
Josh Taylor made it to the elite level of the amateur code, representing Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics before winning a gold medal for Scotland at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. This high level of amateur achievement doesn't guarantee success of course but since his professional debut in July 2015 Taylor has been placed on the fast-track to the top by his handlers, Cyclone Promotions.
Being part of the Cyclone stable has enabled Taylor to perform three times in America on Carl Frampton undercards. “The Tartan Tornado” has boxed in Texas, New York and Las Vegas. This type of experience, facing fighters who bring a vast array of different styles to the table away from home, can only serve to benefit Taylor.
To underline Taylor's quick progress, he was given the opportunity to fight for the Commonwealth light-welterweight title in just his 7th outing. Most new professionals don't get anywhere near a twelve rounder until they are well into double figures in appearances. That night Taylor bested durable Dave Ryan via an imposing 5th round stoppage to lift the title.
In terms of boxing style, Taylor lives up to his nickname. Once he is in range he throws punches in bunches. This is not disorganised flurrying though. Taylor's punch variety has always impressed me, his ability to throw fast, powerful shots to head and body has scored him a few highlight reel stoppages. He looks a natural fighting out of either stance, although recently he has been boxing largely as a southpaw. An over-eager showing in Las Vegas against Alfonso Olvera will have taught Taylor the importance of not forcing things – patience is key against capable opposition. I still have a few question marks about Taylor's defence as he looks to stay in range for a split second too long and is vulnerable to sharp return fire. Going into battle with Davies, Taylor needs to find the balance between his notable attacking combinations while becoming a bit more defensively savvy.
Ohara Davies, at 25, is one year younger than Taylor and has more professional experience than the Scotsman. The London boxer decided his style was better suited to the paid ranks and turned over after only 18 amateur bouts. In late 2014 he signed a promotional deal with Matchroom Boxing and has been steadily climbing the rankings since then.
Davies has been kept busy by his team at Matchroom, boxing five times in both 2015 and 2016. The Englishman also picked up experience of fighting on the road by making two appearances in Germany. Davies has been gradually moving in the direction of regional/intermediate belts during his campaign – winning the English lightweight title in April 2016 and the ranking boosting WBC Silver 140lb title in November of that year. That WBC Silver title fight was Davies' first twelve rounder (his 14th outing) and unlike Taylor he went the full distance that night. Will having the knowledge that he can go the distance if required help Davies in Glasgow in two weekstime?
In March of this year Davies put in arguably the best performance of his career, annihilating veteran Derry Matthews in three one sided rounds at London's O2 Arena. The buildup to Davies vs. Matthews was dominated by trash talking, something Davies specialises in. At a press conference in Matthews' home city of Liverpool Davies insulted the locals: “I've got all you guys coming to see me talk, and all you guys coming to see me fight. All of you guys secretly love me. Liverpool has some of the best females, but the worst fans. Liverpool fans don't understand boxing. They don't know boxing.” Charming.
Although he can offend with his mouth, Davies knows what he's doing with his fists. If Davies is allowed to plant his feet and establish his jab then Taylor could be in for a hard night. Some of Davies' cocky swagger in the pre-fight engagements is mirrored by the way he holds his lead left hand so low when he feels he is in command in the ring. It will be interesting to see if he does this against a fast southpaw. The Londoner throws power based combinations, taking an edge off speed to load up slightly more damaging shots. His jab, right, left uppercut sequence looks to be something he favours. Predominantly a head hunter and with an awkward style Davies has plenty in his arsenal to justify the self confident output that he shares on Twitter.
It is difficult to pick a winner here as both men look to be fully deserving of the acclaim they have received so far. I can see the full twelve rounds being needed here and Josh Taylor just shading a close decision after a thrilling fight. I'm picking Taylor as I believe he will have improved his defence therefore his speed and combination punching will be slightly more effective and ultimately eye-catching to the judges.
Tickets are still available so get along to Braehead Arena if you can. If not the UK TV broadcast is on free to air television (Channel 5) so hopefully a large audience will tune-in. **
July 8 will see two men who have taken different paths to this point collide under the lights in a clash that promises to add another historic chapter to the legendary Scotland-England sporting rivalry. Taylor and Davies have differing styles in and out of the ring but they both want the same thing from this contest – to remain undefeated and earn the right to say they are the best 140lb fighter in the UK. Those of us who will be watching on the night are craving to find out who will emerge through the mist of bad blood victorious. Who will keep their campaign moving forward with an “0” still in the loss column and who may need to take a small backward step on the road to the top.